Zachry, Caroline B. (1894–1945)

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Zachry, Caroline B. (1894–1945)

American educational psychologist. Born Caroline Beaumont Zachry on April 20, 1894, in New York City; died of cancer on February 22, 1945, in New York City; daughter of James Greer Zachry (an attorney) and Elise Clarkson (Thompson) Zachry; graduated from the Spence School in New York City, 1914; Teachers College of Columbia University, B.S., 1924, M.S., 1925, Ph.D., 1929; never married; children: (both adopted) Stephen Beaumont and Nancy Greer.

Selected writings:

Personality Adjustments of School Children (1929); Reorganizing Secondary Education (with Vivian T. Thayer and Ruth Kotinsky, 1939); Emotion and Conduct in Adolescence (1940).

Caroline Beaumont Zachry was born in 1894 in New York City, where her father owned a law practice. Although raised and educated in that Northern city, Zachry came from a distinguished Southern heritage that included such figures as her maternal grandfather Hugh Smith Thompson, who served both as governor of South Carolina and as assistant secretary of the treasury during Grover Cleveland's administration, and her paternal grandfather Charles Zachry who had been a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

Zachry showed little academic promise as a student at the Spence School in New York City—graduating at the bottom of her class in 1914—but her devotion to the study and practice of teaching over the next ten years earned her a bachelor's degree from the Teachers College of Columbia University in 1924. Under the guidance of William Heard Kilpatrick, a professor of the philosophy of education, Zachry completed research on the teaching of English to middle-school students and on the personality adjustment of schoolchildren to earn master's and doctoral degrees in 1925 and 1929, respectively.

While pursuing her doctorate in 1926, Zachry worked in the English and psychology departments of the New Jersey State Teachers College, assuming the directorship of its Mental Hygiene Institute in 1930. Her interest in the psychology of students drew her to Vienna in the early 1930s, where her studies with famed Swiss psychologist Carl Jung caused her to integrate this subject in the training of teachers when she returned to the United States. Zachry incorporated developments in the field of psychology in her revisions of educational practices, specifically focusing on the role of the school in a child's social development.

Her influence spread after she completed a study on adolescence for the Commission on Secondary School Curriculum of the Progressive Education Association, published as Emotion and Conduct in Adolescence in 1940. That same year, the Progressive Education Association founded the Institute for the Study of Personality Development, largely through Zachry's efforts. She served as its director for two years; after her death it was renamed the Caroline B. Zachry Institute of Human Development.

In 1942, Zachry became the director of the Bureau of Child Guidance for the New York City Board of Education under appointment by her personal friend, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Three years into her administration, Zachry died of cancer at the age of 50. One of her students, the celebrated child-rearing expert Dr. Benjamin Spock, reportedly remarked in a Ladies' Home Journal article in March 1960 that Zachry had the "broadest, deepest influence" on his thinking.


Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.

Sonya Elaine Schryer , freelance writer, Lansing, Michigan